Racism, Sexism, and Economic Oppression: What We Can Learn from Poor Women and Battered Women of Color in the U.S.
Research and practice in the area of domestic violence all too often has been presented as a "one size fits all" approach. This is inadequate to the experiences and needs of diverse groups of women who are abused. Instead, this paper looks at (1) the recent research and practice using a race, class, gender, sexuality intersectional analysis and structural framework to understand the lived experiences and contexts of domestic violence for marginalized women in the United States, (2) the relationship of battering in the family to violence against women (and men) by larger systems of socially structured inequality in poor and racialized communities, and (3) the availability of approaches and resources to diverse groups of women to fight this oppression. The focus of this paper is to provide several examples of different types of approaches being used in marginalized communities in the United States for dealing with domestic violence against women in their families. How poor women, women of color, immigrant women, and lesbians visualize some of their work against domestic violence in poor and racialized U.S. communities will be the focus of this paper. I will look at the Material Resources approach (Donna Coker and Neil Websdale and Byron Johnson), the Cultural Context Model (Rhea Almeida); Restorative Justice, Communitarian Control, and Native American Peacemaking, and the FAR OUT model used in a Lesbian and Gay community. My discussion will be grounded in the reality that domestic violence is part of the larger societal systems of violence and inequality. As such domestic violence must be attacked at its root causes: the socially structured systems of inequality — of class, race, gender, sexual orientation, immigrant status, etc. We need structural solutions to structural problems, all the while respecting and understanding specific contributions of different cultures and social problems. An important issue is to understand the intersectional nature of these structural and cultural institutions as we struggle against domestic violence in all communities, but especially the poorest and most marginalized.
Keywords: Racism, Sexism, Economic Oppression, Domestic Violence, Battered Women, Immigrants, Sexual Orientation
Prof. Natalie Sokoloff
Professor of Sociology, Sociology Department, John Jay College of Criminal Justice- City University of New York